What to Do in Sausalito
This post is a guide to visiting Sausalito, a small town just north of San Francisco. Sausalito is a popular destination for both tourists and locals as it boasts beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, as well as an impressive food scene. Below we have listed the top attractions to see/do in Sausalito, as well as how to get there, where to eat, and which walking tours to take. Additionally, we compare the various bus tour companies that travel from San Francisco to Sausalito so that guests can determine which one works best for them.
1. Vista Point
Though not located in Sausalito, per se, Vista Point is a beautiful lookout spot that offers stunning views of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge less than an hour’s walk (or a 15-minute drive) from Sausalito. Many bus tours that visit Sausalito will stop at Vista Point along the way so that guests can capture the beautiful view. Free parking is available to those traveling by car.
Read our post on bus tours in San Francisco to learn which ones visit Vista Point.
2. Sausalito Boardwalk
The Sausalito Boardwalk is a charming stretch of the city featuring several locally owned shops and restaurants. There are also great views of the San Francisco city skyline in the distance. Though this area can get busy during the summer, it is well worth a visit. If you’re looking for a break from the chaos of San Francisco, then don’t miss the Sausalito Boardwalk.
3. Historic Walking Tour
Sausalito is host to a couple highly esteemed walking tours that share the city’s history and incredible food culture. Having developed into a bustling tourist destination in the decade following World War 11, Sausalito has a fascinating past that is best learned on a guided tour. Some San Francisco bus tours include a walking tour of Sausalito in their day trips to Muir Woods, Yosemite, or nearby wine country.
Jump to the Walking Tour section of this post to learn more.
This is a small, black sand beach with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Several visitors even report seeing dolphins during their time here. If it’s a sunny day, Rodeo Beach is a perfect spot for a picnic or casual stroll. There is also a pond and rolling hills nearby, which are home to a wide variety of birds and other species.
5. Wine & Dine
There are several impressive restaurants that feature a wide range of cuisines, such as seafood, Italian, and Mexican. Some of the most highly regarded restaurants are Scoma’s of Sausalito, Napa Valley Burger Company, and Sushi Ran. Guests who are especially interested in sampling the best of what Sausalito has to offer should consider taking a food tour. Additionally, there are also a number of casual pubs and wine bars around the area that are worth checking out!
Check out our where to eat section below.
6. Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center is a “nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals.” They work primarily with elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions — each of which is indigenous to the area. Though you will not be able to get close to any of these animals, you will learn a lot about the animals and the challenges they face. Admission is completely free, but those who are interested in a more immersive experience should sign up for one of their docent-led tours which are $9 per adult / $5 per child and run daily at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.
Located near Vista Point, Battery Spencer is an overlook with incredible views of the north side of Golden Gate Bridge. The best vantage point is on top of Hawk Hill, which is a dirt mound right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Parking is free but often limited due to its popularity. There are also several old abandoned military buildings, which are worth visiting if you’re interested in learning more about the area’s history.
8. Bay Area Discovery Museum
A great place to bring young children, the Bay Area Discovery Museum features several different hands-on exhibits and events year-round. In fact, there are six daily drop-in programs for children 6 months of age to 10 years. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 9 am – 4 pm and Saturday – Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm. http://bayareadiscoverymuseum.org/
- $13.95 – Baby (ages 6-11 months)
- $14.95 – Child (ages 1-17)
- $14.95 – Adult (ages 18-64)
9. Boat Tours
One of the best ways to see Sausalito is from the water! Most visitors will take the ferry at least once either to or from San Francisco. There are also several different boat tours and cruises that visit the area. Tours range from dinner cruises and tourist cruises to speedboat tours and water taxis. In addition to spectacular views of Sausalito, you will also enjoy views of the San Francisco city skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Check out our post Which San Francisco Boat Tour or Cruise is Best? for a full list of options.
Located at the Bay Model Visitor Center, this incredible model of San Francisco Bay was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and originally used for scientific research. The model is immense, stretching approximately 320 feet long in the north-south direction and about 400 feet long in the east-west direction. Admission is completely free and it is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-4pm.
Sausalito is located approximately 10 miles north of San Francisco, just across the Golden Gate Bridge.Visitors can choose to drive there by car, take the ferry from North Beach, use public buses, or travel on a private bus tour company. You can use this Google map for directions Sausalito’s main pier.
By foot: Many visitors do not realize that pedestrians can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. However, it is a LONG way to travel! To walk from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito, it will take you about 3 hours.
By bike: Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is an easy way to reach Sausalito and enjoy beautiful views of the Bay. For full details on how to do so, check out our post on cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge.
By car: The drive to Sausalito takes approximately 22 minutes from central San Francisco. Guests must simply cross the Golden Gate Bridge and take the 101 towards Sausalito/Marin County.
By ferry: Visitors can also choose to travel via ferry. There are several different companies that depart from both the Ferry Building/GGF and Pier 41/B&G throughout the day. The trip takes approximately 25 minutes and costs $10 each way. In addition to being quick and relatively cost-effective, the ferry route also offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Learn more about traveling to Sausalito via boat tour or ferry.
By public bus: Guests looking to seriously save on cash can opt to use the public bus system to travel between San Francisco and Sausalito. The trip takes roughly 1 hour and can include multiple transfers, depending on your specific departure point.
By bus tour: There are several different tour companies that feature stops in Sausalito. Below we have listed the best tour companies, comparing each by price, tour itinerary, and reputation.
Though there are several different companies that offer bus tours of Sausalito, CitySightseeing proves to be our favorite. Below is a list of the 4 tours of Sausalito that they offer — each of which is combined with other popular Bay Area attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods. For a broader comparison of all the different bus tours available in San Francisco, read our post Reviews of San Francisco Hop-On, Hop-Off, and Other Bus Tours.
City Sightseeing Double Decker Buses
If you would like to visit Sausalito, there are 4 different ways to do so with City Sightseeing. Primarily a hop-on/hop-off bus tour company, City Sightseeing offers 2 combo tour packages that feature visits to Sausalito, as well as 2 multi-day bus passes that also include routes that stop in Sausalito. Of their combo packages, the first tour visits the Golden Gate Bridge, Presidio, Ghirardelli Square, and the Palace of the Fine Arts, in addition to Sausalito. The second tour visits Muir Woods, a nearby wooded area with the famed California redwood trees, as well as Sausalito. Both are fully narrated by a professional tour guide. As guests are free to hop-on/hop-off the bus at any point within a 24 hour period on the Golden Gate + Sausalito Tour, that one is ideal for those who want to be able to determine exactly how long they spend in Sausalito. Alternatively, you can opt to purchase either their 2 or 3-day hop-on, hop-off tours of San Francisco, which gives you unlimited access to their 4 different tour routes — one of which is of Sausalito.
Length of Tour:
- Muir Wood + Sausalito + City Tour – A combination of CitySightseeing’s 3 most popular tours. $79.99 for adults ($76.99 if bought online); $51.99 for children ($49.99 if bought online)
- Golden Gate + Sausalito – Approximately 1.5 hours, though guests are allowed to hop-on/hop-off at any time in a 24 hour period. $32.99 for adults ($30.99 if bought online); $21.99for children ($19.99 if bought online)
- Muir Woods + Sausalito – Approximately 4 hours, departing from San Francisco every day at 9:00 am. Read our post on visiting Muir Woods to learn more. $59.99 for adults ($54.99 if bought online); $44.99 for children ($41.99 if bought online)
- 2 Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour of San Francisco – Includes 48-hour access to 4 Open Top Bus Tours; 40+ stops throughout San Francisco and Sausalito. $62.99 for adults ($57.99 if bought online); $37.99 for children ($32.99 if bought online)
- 3 Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour of San Francisco – Includes 72-hour access to 4 Open Top Bus Tours; 40+ stops throughout San Francisco and Sausalito. $72.99 for adults ($72.99 if bought online); $47.99 for adults ($42.99 if bought online)
CitySightseeing’s Golden Gate + Sausalito Tour receives generally positive reviews, with many guests praising the ease of transportation. The quality of the guided commentary varies depending on the driver, though most visitors find it informative and enjoyable. Some guests had trouble hearing the driver due to a poor PA system on the bus. Overall, visitors who traveled with CitySightseeing found the experience very enjoyable and straightforward. TripAdvisor Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars.
Though walking tours are not nearly as popular in Sausalito as San Francisco, there are still 2 highly regarded walking tour companies operating in the area. Both are small and relatively new companies with excellent reputations. The first, Travels with Teri Walking Tours, offers a historic walking tour and a wine tasting tour of Sausalito. The second, Gourmet Food and Wine Tours, is a food and wine tour of the area that includes tastings at 4 different restaurants/wineries.
Gourmet Food and Wine Tours
This specialty food and wine tour company offer tours of Napa and Sonoma Valley, in addition to Sausalito. The latter is promoted as an all-inclusive culinary experience with a 1/2 glass of local wine on each savory stop and a French Press coffee with gourmet dessert. There are a total of 3 wine pairings at different stops, plus coffee and dessert to finish the experience. Additionally, a list of the top 100 Bay Area restaurants and a Michelin Guide is included. Group size averages 4-6 people.
- Length of Tour: 11:30am-3:00pm (3+ hours)
- Cost: $155 per person; $135 for non-drinkers
- Learn more and purchase
Reviews: Though this is a relatively new company, it has already earned an excellent reputation. Guests compliment the guides for being incredible hosts and exceedingly knowledgeable. Others describe the tour as a “real 5-star experience” that shouldn’t be missed. TripAdvisor Ranking: 5 stars.
Travels with Teri Walking Tours
Travels with Teri Walking Tours is a small, boutique walking tour company owned and run by Teri Goldstein, a 16 year veteran in the travel industry. She currently offers 2 tours in Sausalito: (1) History Walking Tour and (2) Love to Imbibe: Wine Tasting Tour. The company is very small and doesn’t have a standard tour schedule, but instead allows guests to make their own private booking up to 72 hours in advance.
Length of Tour: Approximately 2 hours; guests must call to schedule tour
Reviews: Though the company is small, Travels with Terri Walking Tours boasts a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor. Guests compliment Teri’s knowledge, as well as her impressive ability to make Sausalito’s history accessible and interesting. In addition to visitors raving about her company, Teri’s tours also garner praise from Sausalito locals. TripAdvisor Rating: 5 stars.
For those who are short on time or who prefer to explore on their own, a self-guided tour of Sausalito is an excellent alternative. Sausalito Chamber of Commerce publishes a detailed map of the area, helping visitors determine where to go and what to see.
Planning your trip in advance. How to spend 2 hours or 2 days in Sausalito.
Blue & Gold Fleet offer a regular ferry service between Sausalito and San Francisco. The route runs regularly between approximately 9am-5pm. Though there is no audio tour or guided commentary provided during the ride, you do get to experience stunning views of the city — making this a cheap and easy way to travel to Sausalito AND take in the beautiful San Francisco skyline.
- From San Francisco: Ferry Service to Sausalito
- A 1-hour ferry that operates from 9:40 AM – 5:20 PM
- One Way – $11.50 per person
- Round Trip – $23 per person
- Purchase tickets here
Reviews of Blue & Gold Fleet
Everyone who has used the ferry service between Sausalito and San Francisco seems thrilled with their experience (read the reviews). Many were especially happy with how convenient it was to travel to Sausalito via ferry, as it allowed them to avoid battling crazy San Francisco traffic. This is also a great alternative for those who are hesitant to pay for a fully guided tour but still want the experience of cruising through the Bay.
Sausalito is known for its up and coming food culture, which boasts a wide selection of cuisines and restaurants. Seafood is especially renowned in the area, with several restaurants located directly on the water.
Scoma’s of Sausalito – Perhaps the most famous eatery in Sausalito, Scoma’s is one of the few restaurants that still operates its own fishing vessel. Scoma’s offer beautiful views of the city skyline, as well as incredible dishes such as their Lazy Man’s Cioppino and Dungeness crab.
Avatar’s – Avatar’s is a small, family-run restaurant known as the “Purveyors of ethnic confusions since 1989.” The food is an interesting mix of both Indian and Mexican. They are most famous for their specialty dessert of almond gelato cake with chocolate, pistachios, mango, and rose petal sauce.
Fred’s Coffee Shop – Fred’s Coffee Shop has been around since 1966 and is an absolute staple in Sausalito’s food scene. Their impressive breakfasts are the perfect way to start the day. In addition to eggs benedict, lemon ricotta pancakes, and bottomless mimosas, this restaurant is also famed for its “millionaire’s bacon.”
Barrel House Tavern – Barrel House Tavern offers one of the best seaside views in Sausalito. The menu is relatively high priced but is worth every penny. Additionally, this restaurant also boasts one of the widest ranges of microbrews in the area.
Lighthouse Cafe – This inviting breakfast and lunch cafe is known for its Scandinavian classics. Their curried herring pair with an open-face Copenhagen burger is one of the most ordered dishes on the menu, in addition to their Danish meatballs, Norwegian salmon, and pickled beet.